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Thousands of Americans sue China for coronavirus: companies demand $ 8 trillion in compensation

A group of small businesses in the United States, including the Cardiff Prestige Property, Little Saigon Chamber of Commerce, First Premier X and others, filed a lawsuit against the People's Republic of China, Wuhan, and the country's Health Commission. Writes about this TMZ.

Photo: Shutterstock

According to the documents, a small business group claims that the Chinese government already in mid-November knew that it was dealing with a “new” and potentially deadly virus, but was silent about it and even tried to hide information.

The lawsuit also claims that perhaps a biological weapons laboratory near Wuhan could be responsible for an infected bat that hit the market and triggered a pandemic.

The lawsuit claims, since China allegedly knew well about the impending pandemic before February. He was obliged to notify the World Health Organization and neighboring countries, but did not.

As a result, as stated in the lawsuit, such actions by China cost dearly to entrepreneurs around the world. The group is requesting compensation in the amount of $ 8 trillion, which, they said, they and other small businesses have either suffered or will suffer in the future due to quarantine closure.

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US President Donald Trump himself has made similar accusations against China, arguing that he should have talked more openly about the scope of the problem.

Can I get compensation from China due to pandemic?

Author of the column in the publication BloombergYale Law Professor Stephen Carter expressed his opinion on this situation.

“If you want to argue that the Chinese government acted irresponsibly, that the country's officials deserve the world's condemnation for allowing the new coronavirus to take over the world when early actions could have kept it reasonably under control, you will not get any argument from me. - writes Carter. “The Chinese authorities chose denial, censorship and rudeness over transparency that could save lives. The spread of knowingly false information aggravates the situation. "

“Legal liability, however, is another matter. The Chinese government is protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, and their response to the coronavirus epidemic is not sufficient reason for a trial, ”Carter says.

“Sovereign immunity is not a service that courts provide to foreign regimes. This is an act of reciprocity between countries, a peace treaty based on a general agreement that we will not allow our people to sue you if you do not allow your people to sue us, the author explains. "The doctrine is so broad that a British court ruled in 1894 that even if a foreign ruler comes to another country under an assumed name and, hiding his true position, concludes a treaty, there will still be no legal action against him."

Until 1952, the United States generally held the position that the immunity of foreign sovereigns was absolute. But that year, the State Department took the position that it would study the immunity requirements more thoroughly when it came to a commercial dispute.

This, in turn, led to the enactment of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, known as the FSIA, in 1976, a statute designed to "protect foreign sovereigns from the burden of litigation."

The protection of the law is so broad that the US Supreme Court ruled that a foreign state does not even need to file a response to a complaint - what lawyers call a turnout - to apply immunity. For example, when the family of a boy allegedly killed by a defective hunting rifle sued a manufacturer owned by the Chinese government, the defendant did not bother to appear in court. Instead, the company sent the documents back to the plaintiff, and in the end it was found inviolable under this act of defense.

Of course, if control of the company is in private hands, sovereign immunity does not provide any protection. U.S. courts are prepared to go far to track the actual ownership of a foreign corporation and ensure that the government actually controls most of its shares.

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“Yes, China's behavior was reckless, but this possibility is in the very idea of ​​sovereign immunity. Torture law is usually based on the assumption that people will take reasonable precautions if they know they will have to be held accountable for the harm they cause. Theorists call this process forcing people to “internalize” the costs of their behavior, ”the author writes.

“The Chinese government has, in fact, made a bet that it will not be punished, that politics will protect it. But the question arises: will such a position really work? The world has suffered trillions of dollars in losses from their recklessness. The economic consequences can last for a long time, ”the author writes.

Prior to the entry into force of the FSIA in the late 1970s, the Department of State considered the application of sovereign immunity separately in each case.

“Regardless of what the world's political leaders do, a handful of judges in the US may insist that some particular aspect of the pandemic means that the Chinese regime is responsible for FSIA,” the author argues.

At the same time, US courts are careful to ensure that plaintiffs do not entangle Chinese legal entities in lawsuits against the government itself. For example, a federal court of appeal in 2011 ruled that a law authorizing legal action against foreign officials could not be used to sue a company allegedly controlled by the Chinese government.

Class action lawsuits against China filed in many US states

In less than a month, more than 5 U.S. citizens joined a class action lawsuit in Florida, whose authors demand compensation from the Chinese government for damage caused by COVID-19. The plaintiffs claim that they suffered huge losses due to the negligence of Beijing, which allowed the spread of coronavirus around the world. Similar class action lawsuits have also been filed in courts in Nevada and Texas, writes "Voice of America".

“Our lawsuit concerns those physically harmed by the virus ... it also concerns China's commercial activities related to the trade in bushmeat markets,” said representatives of the law firm Berman Law Group.

Lawyers cite exceptions for “commercial activities” and “bodily harm” in accordance with the Immunity of Foreign Sovereign Law Entities Immunity Act [FSIA] as the legal basis for suing China.

According to estimates by the British conservative analytical center, The Henry Jackson Society, a potential US lawsuit against China for damage from a coronavirus could amount to $ 1,2 trillion. In a new report, British analysts wrote that China was potentially liable for damage resulting from misconduct in the early stages of a coronavirus outbreak.

This, in particular, is about the deliberate concealment of information from the World Health Organization: analysts call this a violation of the International Health Regulations.

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The Henry Jackson Society calls on countries to sue China, identifying 10 different legal ways to do this, including WHO, the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and courts in Hong Kong and the United States.

“Not just using one, but using a combination of legal paths may be the most effective course of action,” said Andrew Foxall, director of research for the Henry Jackson Society and co-author of the report.

However, according to lawyer David Fiedler of the University of Washington in St. Louis, states, including the United States, are unlikely to file formal lawsuits against China in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.

In the history of international law, the responsibility of the authorities of one state for damage caused to another country was first recognized by an arbitration court in the 1920s. A Canadian steel plant in British Columbia emitted toxic fumes, damaging forests and crops in surrounding Canada and the US state of Washington.

To resolve the dispute, Canada and the United States created a tribunal, as a result of which Canada agreed to pay compensation to the United States for damage caused by the plant. Lawyers draw parallels with China's responsibility for failing to contain the domestic epidemic.

“If Canada had adequate environmental laws at the time, the steel plant would not have polluted the atmosphere or harmed the United States. If China maintained an adequate food safety regulatory regime, the spread of harm could be avoided, ”said Russell Miller, professor of law at the University of Washington.

William Starshak, a financial lawyer from Chicago, believes that it is in China’s interests to take responsibility in this case, as Canada did a hundred years ago.

“This will actually help China to show responsibility, collect all these claims, which will be a great many, and which will have all kinds of geopolitical consequences. This is really the only way that China will be able to get out of this situation, ”Starshak said.

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